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Lawmakers taking second look at 'second chance law'

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Legislators want to take a second look at a new law passed this year that gives Indiana residents with nonviolent criminal histories a chance to limit public access to parts of their record.

The Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee met Thursday and discussed possible changes to the new law that the Indiana General Assembly passed in the final days of the 2011 session.

Known as the “second chance” law, House Enrolled Act 1211 allows individuals convicted of certain offenses that weren’t violent or sex crimes to request from the courts restricted access to arrest and criminal records after eight years. The new law is limited to misdemeanors and Class D felonies, and it only limits access rather than expunging a person’s record completely. The statute also allows for limited record access if the person wasn’t prosecuted, if the charges were dismissed or if the case resulted in acquittal.

But since the law took effect July 1, the legal community has been confused about how the changes should be implemented. Judges have delayed making decisions on those requests for closed access to arrest records until they received more direction, and prosecutors and defense attorneys have directed questions to lawmakers.

The Indiana Supreme Court’s Division of State Court Administration has received questions from trial judges and clerks about the logistics of restricting access to public records, according to court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan. She said the court has added a new chapter to the Administrative Manual about navigating this new statute, and the courts also developed and posted online a form that could be used by pro se litigants.

“Our goal is to give judges and clerks meaningful direction on how to make daily court operations run smoothly while following the law,” Dolan said.

At its most recent meeting on Thursday, the interim legislative panel discussed fixing the inconsistencies in the statute. Draft legislation is being finalized and likely will be discussed again at the next meeting Oct. 26, according to committee members.

Some discussion points at the meeting: Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, noted that felons could be admitted as lawyers in the state because they would not have to disclose their prior crimes that are sealed through this law. David Powell, recently appointed as the executive director of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, said schools should be allowed to access these records when running criminal background checks on prospective employees.

Indiana Public Defender Council Executive Director Larry Landis said he supports the current law because its aim of shielding these records was a compromise in the larger debate about expunging the convictions altogether. But he agrees the law is inconsistent, and that’s what the draft legislation focuses on. Those revisions are intended to clarify what goes into a petition requesting this limited access and who should get notice of this petition and order once it’s filed, as well as what a court should order about who needs to comply with the restricted access. One aspect also involves making the petition itself confidential, Landis said.

“We wouldn’t be reopening discussion about any substantive policy issues, but just clarifying and making the law more specific on how it should be implemented,” he said.
 

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  • Second chance act
    This was a loosely defined law that was passed by legislators for wanting to look compassionate to a very vocal group. No more no less. Its amazing the people of this state pay to have its leaders not take this "dangerous" legislation to a completed thought. But what makes it more disturbing? Is they did this lackedaisical process with so much of the states residents safety and security at risk.
  • Second chance Felony law
    Is there forms online to fill out to if anybody's eligible for ?

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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